Release Indian prisoners soon:Lahore HC

Lahore: In a move that could benefit Indian prisoners languishing in Pakistani jails, the Lahore High Court has directed authorities to speed up the release of foreigners who continue to be in prison despite having served their sentences.

Lahore High Court Chief Justice Ijaz Chaudhry issued the order on Wednesday while disposing of a petition filed by lawyer Awais Sheikh seeking the release of two Indian prisoners — Satinder Pal Singh and Karale Bhanudas — currently being held in Kot Lakhpat Jail.

The two Indians had challenged their confinement even after they had served their prison terms. Chief Justice Chaudhry said the Foreign Ministry should approach the countries to which the prisoners, who have completed their jail terms, belonged and resolve the issue.

A report submitted in court by the Punjab Home Department said 74 foreigners were currently being held in four prisons in the province. Thirty-two prisoners, including four women, are from India, while the rest are from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, Burma, Tanzania, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Iraq, South Africa and Dominica.

According to the report, there were 56 foreign prisoners in Kot Lakhpat Jail, 16 in the Rawalpindi Central Jail and one each in Kasur District Jail and Dera Ghazi Khan Jail. It could not immediately be ascertained whether all the 32 Indian prisoners had completed their sentences.

Deputy Attorney General Shaista Qaiser, who represented the federal government, informed the court that the Foreign Ministry had details of only four of these prisoners. She said steps would be taken for the release of prisoners if their details are provided by provincial authorities.

Chief Justice Chaudhry directed the Punjab Home Department to hand over a list of foreign prisoners to the Foreign Ministry. He further ordered the ministry to expedite their repatriation. Lawyer Awais Sheikh contended that the foreigners languishing in Pakistani jails were being victimised.

The Chief Justice obtained an undertaking from Sheikh that after the foreigners are released from prison, he would visit India and try to repatriate Pakistani prisoners from Indian jails. Sheikh assured the court that he would work for the release of Pakistanis held in Indian jails.